Two vocal opponents of Brexit, Katharine Hamnett, celebrated fashion designer and activist and Labour MP, Rushanara Ali spoke at Libreria last night. As expected, the conversation was heated and passionate. Discussion flowed around a people’s vote, the Labour government’s lack of opposition and the impact of Brexit on the UK fashion industry.
“It’s completely fascist to say that a second referendum is undemocratic” declared Hamnett. “Expats weren’t allowed to vote, we were lied to, and the Russian involvement needs to be properly investigated.” Ali was perhaps more diplomatic in her dialogue, “we took the European project for granted. It’s a 45 year relationship with very complex and subtle arrangements, it continues to be bewildering.”Ali agrees that a people’s vote is needed “if a move to a second referendum isn’t rightly respected, people will feel betrayed”.
Hamnett also mentioned that she was going to announce leaving the Labour Party that very evening “I think it’s still better to have a voice, but I don’t know what the fuck they’re doing.”
The Labour government has been criticised for their lack of opposition to Brexit, but Rushanara Ali made a brilliant point regarding the difficulties facing MPs. “The majority of MPs are pro European and the majority want a soft Brexit, to be in the customs union and be in or at least have access to the single market.” The reality of the situation in the Labour party is that “MPs, predominantly in leave seats, are under immense pressure. They would accuse me of having it easy, having a pro European constituency.” She believes MPs need to do what’s best for their constituents, regardless, “when the trouble hits, people will say you should have known better.”
Contributing over £32bn of GDP, the fashion industry is going to be severely affected. 75% of clothing components are imported from Europe, small companies supply chains will be broken and the freedom of movement of people is going to be a “complete disaster” according to Hamnett.
One of the biggest tragedies Hamnett spoke of, was the recent EU-Japan trade deal, “that’s where all fashion companies make their money.” The ‘made in Britain’ reputation is highly regarded in East Asian countries, of which Japan is the shop window. Leaving the EU with no deal means being completely blocked from that opportunity. Despite this, the fashion industry has for the most part stood idly by, almost ignoring its duty to protest. The fishing industry, in comparison, contributes £1.9bn, and yet all we see is fishing communities and fishing boats on the news.
Hamnett has lost business due to her activism “I’ve just lost a job in South America due to my extreme hardline views” but concluded with, “it’s my business and I do what I like and suffer the consequences.” For those that want to follow suit, Hamnett’s t-shirts are in Libreria on a first come, first served basis.